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School food is an investment, not a cost; the risk of resorting to cheap meat

School food is an investment, not a cost; the risk of resorting to cheap meat

School meals play an important role in our society by nourishing the nation’s children and young people, contributing to their health and fuelling their learning. School food procurement also has the potential to be a key driver in pushing forward the priorities of the Good Food Nation Act. Buying food locally can enhance Community Wealth Building, support sustainable producers and strengthen local economies. These factors are more important now than ever as we face a cost-of-living crisis, as well as the interconnected climate, nature and health crises.  

There’s no denying that local authority budgets are under enormous pressure, but serving good quality food to children must remain a priority. School food is an investment not a cost. 

UK animal welfare standards  

As one of the more expensive items on any menu, meat is often under scrutiny as a product where costs could be cut.   

One of the key Food for Life Served Here (FFLSH) standards states that all meat must be from farms which satisfy UK animal welfare standards. 

Caterers meeting this FFLSH standard can be confident that animals have been raised in conditions and received care that meets the requirements of animal welfare laws that are widely acknowledged as being amongst the strictest in the world.  

Quality Meat Scotland 

In Scotland, the procurement of Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) can support local businesses. Buying from Scottish farmers is a straightforward way to support Community Wealth Building, contribute to the local economy and develop more resilient supply chains, whilst the QMS stamp assures higher welfare standards for animals. 

In Scotland, over 80% of the land is grass or rough grazing, which is not suitable for growing crops, but is ideal for livestock. The grass grazed by livestock absorbs carbon from the atmosphere and captures it in the soil, and Scotland’s abundant rainfall creates lush grasslands without the need for irrigation. With these conditions right on our doorstep, it makes sense to serve Scottish meat and support the local economy.  

Reverting to imported meat would be a step backwards for public sector food, and often means there are no guarantees of the quality of meat or of how animals have been treated. 

What does this mean for caterers? 

The Food for Life Scotland (FFLS) team offers support to caterers to develop menus that are healthier, more sustainable and locally sourced, but where costs are also balanced. 

This could mean: 

  • Working with the FFLS Supply Chain Development Manager to identify suppliers providing farm assured meat, certified by recognised standards, in order to avoid meat that’s been farmed with lower welfare standards. 

  • Working with the FFLS Menu and Catering Skills team to develop a menu that has fewer but better-quality meat options and incorporates plant-based proteins, whilst avoiding ultra-processed products. 

  • Working with the FFLS Evaluation and Data Officer to better understand spending and to identify cost savings that can be made across the whole menu to balance the cost of farm assured meat.

Building a Good Food Nation 

Scotland has some of the best land and conditions for raising livestock. The public sector should be able to support and take advantage of this. As Good Food Nation plans are developed at national and local level, the provision of UK farm assured, and indeed QMS, meat on school plates should remain a priority. 

The true value of school meals must be recognised, and they should be funded accordingly. Serving quality food in schools can have a hugely positive impact on the nation’s health, can contribute to environmental goals and can strengthen local economies. If we resource public food accordingly and balance this with taking measures such as serving less but better meat, we can continue to work towards a better food system, despite tighter budgets  

For more information contact our Supply Chain Development Manager, Lucie Wardle E:, T: 0131 370 8144